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“I know we are going through adversity, I get it”: Johnny Marr says he became “really tired of rock music” prior to solo career

The Smiths guitarist also describes going solo after years of playing in bands as “liberating”.

Johnny Marr

Image: Mauricio Santana / Getty Images

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Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has opened up about how his solo career began at a time where he got “really tired of rock music”.

The musician, whose new compilation album Spirit Power: The Best of Johnny Marr arrived earlier this month, told The Standard that he was “really tired of rock music” by the time he released his first solo record The Messenger in 2013.

“It was liberating, the solo stuff. A lot of people might assume that me going solo was this sort of furtive thing – it’s nothing like that,” Marr explains.

“It was that I had these ideas for a group, and because I’ve been forming groups since I was 14, I sort of know when I’m on to something, you know, for a group.”

“But I believe that a group has to have a worldview. The singer needs to be saying something, I believe, other than ‘listen to my feelings!’”

Marr says that he began writing solo music while touring with The Cribs, noting that his prolific nature in bands often led to him proposing new song ideas during tours.

“I say to the singer… I start going, ‘Let’s write some new songs. I’ve got some riffs’,” he recalls. “But what I discovered after about 25 years is that it’s probably very annoying.”

“Because now, as someone who now has to write 15 lots of lyrics every time I make a new album, when you’re at the end of a 12-month tour to have your guitar player saying, ‘I’ve got three songs, I’ve got three songs, write the lyrics’, you just want to go home, sleep and get your head together.”

“I’m really annoying,” Marr reiterates. “So with The Cribs, I kept that to myself and I started writing for myself.”

As for the making of his first album, Marr says that “the reason I’m singing about architecture so much is because I used it as a device to write songs that I wanted to sing.”

“Everyone seemed to be singing about this adversity that we’re all going through. And I know we are going through adversity, I get it. But I got really tired of rock music.”

“The currency of rock music being this faux sentimentality. I thought, well, Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie And The Banshees) wasn’t singing about her feelings. She was singing about Arabian Knights and Spellbound and Happy House. Interesting, surreal, unusual subjects. I just thought everyone had got into this habit of pouring their inner world out.”

“You know, like, ‘I’ve lost my phone charger… Let me get an acoustic guitar and explain it to you’,” he says.

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